EO Movie Review: One of the Very Best Films of the Year

We as humans have continued to take for granted the role that animals play in the world. They can do more than just fetch, play dead, or eat our table scraps. Animals are smarter and much more intelligent than we’ll ever be. Legendary filmmaker Jerzy Skolimowski’s sensory and hauntingly resonant EO just may be the one film that could get us to wake up and smell the animals, so to speak.

EO is a charismatic donkey who is taken from a traveling circus and sent to a farm, where he breaks out and travels across the countryside, witnessing first-hand cruelty and abuse, kindness and empathy, sometimes both at the same time. Through his eyes, humankind is the most sadistic but also optimistic being. On his journey, he encounters a rambunctious soccer team, animal protestors, a group of brutal thugs, a questionable but ultimately nice truck driver (who offers food to a young, seemingly homeless girl), an Italian priest, and a Countess (a memorable cameo from the great Isabelle Huppert), among other characters who represent the goodness (and evils) of humanity.

Make no mistake, this isn’t is a happy-go-lucky Disney film about the travails of a donkey. This is anti-Disney, full of light but unmistakable darkness. An almost psychedelic trip through the cinematic abyss, where the journey can only lead to a bitter but ambitious end for our four-legged hero. It’s obviously an update/pseudo remake of Robert Bresson’s 1966 masterpiece Au Hasard Balthazar, where that titular hero also bravely treks through person to person, experiencing the dangers of humanity but also moments of beauty.

There is a lot of amazing and highly charged visual imagery going on in this film, courtesy of cinematographer Michal Dymek. The use of red is also inspired and incredibly chilling. It’s like EO himself is subtly pointing out our flaws and ills, and warning us about our behavior, while also reminding us to be good to animals. I think in his own way, Skolimowski is doing the same.

It’s safe to say that EO is one of the very best films of the year, and it reminds us that cinema isn’t dead and has more stories to tell. It’s not for everyone, obviously, but those who see it will find most likely find it impossible to shake.

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